An International Women’s Day Challenge

My relationship to International Women’s Day (IWD) is bittersweet. I believe there are serious, overarching, and global issues that bind us all by gender; IWD is a declaration that we want a different future. But as an agent for change and inclusion, I take issue with the way people and organizations tend to approach IWD: reducing gender to a binary conversation, ignoring intersectionality, and placing far too much emphasis on raising awareness rather than building capacity.

IWD is an opportunity for transformation within our communities and workplaces. IWD events and activities can be uplifting, galvanizing. We need the energy created on this day to keep us going, because the road to gender equality is all uphill. But the year-on-year arms race between and among organizations to get ever-higher doses of “inspiration” is not the way to go. Progress on gender equality will continue to stagnate unless and until we take on systemic and cultural change.

We can go further.

To that end, I propose:

Three challenges for organizations planning celebrations for #IWD2018

  1. Live your strategy. Link IWD to organizational strategy and business objectives. Integrate IWD as just one aspect of the Diversity & inclusion (D&I) portfolio, and invest in IWD proportionately. (Or, if the organization doesn’t have a D&I portfolio, leverage IWD as the flashpoint to build one.)
  2. Make it a do, not listen, moment. Select critical behaviors, and set some outcomes and indicators: make it clear what you expect people in your organization to do differently as a result of their IWD experience and hold your IWD speakers and organizers to it.
  3. Embrace intersectionality. Make space for a spectrum of voices and experiences to be shared. Even within our commonality we are unique; ignoring our differences denies our identity and prevents the cohesion we say we want.

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